American evangelist Billy Graham dead at 99

Prominent evangelical Christian minister Rev. Billy Graham passed away Wednesday at his home in Montreat, N.C, Fox News reports.

The influential preacher, who served as a spiritual adviser for every US president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, was 99.

Graham suffered from ill-health for a number of years. He regularly appeared on lists of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.”

The public relations firm DeMoss Associates told Fox News Graham died of “natural causes.”

In the 1960s, Graham associated himself with civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he bailed out of jail. Graham made an effort to racially integrate his rallies, refusing to preach to segregated audiences.

Evangelist Billy Graham is shown speaking at Madison Square Garden, New York City May 15, 1957 as he opens his crusade for A Spiritual Revolution in the City. (AP Photo).

Both he and his wife were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1966.

Graham was especially close with presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson. He presided over graveside services for Johnson’s in 1973 and spoke at Richard Nixon’s funeral in 1994.

In 2001, Graham led a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

President John F. Kennedy talks with evangelist Billy Graham at the annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast in a Washington hotel, Feb. 9, 1961. The event is sponsored by the International Christian Leadership Conference. (AP Photo)

Graham, the author of 33 books, began his ministry as a Southern Baptist clergyman in 1939. His evangelism took him to every continent except Antarctica.

According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Graham had a lifetime audience of nearly 215 million people in over 185 countries and territories.

President Barack Obama meets with Billy Graham in 2010. (AP Photo/The White House, Pete Souza).

In his later years, Graham suffered from Parkinson’s, which limited his preaching. The evangelist was hospitalized in November 2011 for the “evaluation and treatment of his lungs.”

In 1983, Graham received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. He was also bestowed with an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001.

Ruth Graham, the Christian leader’s wife of 64 years, died in 2007.

Graham’s son, William Franklin III, commonly known as Franklin Graham, is expected to succeed his father as head of his ministry.

Evangelist Billy Graham at his first meeting at the Sports Stadium in Accra, Ghana, Jan. 24, 1960. (AP Photo/Royale).

Graham famously said: “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ.”

A number of public figures, including President Trump, mourned Graham’s loss and expressed admiration for his life of service.

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